Home > Food and Drink, Heart Health, Nutrition > Olive Oil and Red Wine Gifts

Olive Oil and Red Wine Gifts

December 10, 2009 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

A few years ago I gave my wife a rather unconventional gift for the holidays. It was a book of “vouchers for lovers”. In it, there were coupons that could be redeemed whenever she chose. Some of the options included requests for “alone time”, “a big kiss”, “breakfast in bed”, “a candlelight dinner”, “a foot massage” and “a weekend getaway”. I don’t know who originally conceived of this idea, but I thought it was very clever. It seemed like an excellent way for couples to give a lot without necessarily having to spend a lot.

Lately I’ve been compiling ideas for healthy gifts and stockings stuffers for family and friends. All of these recommendations have two things in common: they have the real potential to improve lives and they’re all relatively affordable.

Gift # 1 – Organic, Extra Virgin Olive Oil

The idea of giving a high quality olive oil was inspired by a group of Spanish scientists. They recently conducted a study on 17 type 2 diabetics and 23 “healthy elderly” volunteers. Over the course of 4 weeks, all of the participants ate a diet that was supplemented with virgin olive oil. Blood pressure and a variety of blood tests relating to cardiovascular health were taken prior to and after the trial. All of the participants demonstrated a drop in blood pressure. However, the diabetic volunteers also exhibited a reduction in oxidized LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. It’s well established that diabetics tend to produce more harmful, oxidative stress than healthy individuals. Extra virgin olive is a rich source of antioxidants and may, therefore, counter some of the negative consequences that are often associated with diabetes. (1,2,3)

Gift #2 – Biodynamic or Organic Red Wine

We give the gift of organic red wine on a regular basis. Whenever we’re invited to a friend’s home for a celebration or a dinner party, we come bearing a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir or Syrah. Thus far, it’s always been well accepted and enjoyed by all. If you need a reason to share some vino rosso with your loved ones, consider this: As little as 8 ounces of red wine (for 15 days) is capable of: a) raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol and lowering blood pressure in healthy men and women and; b) improving circulation and heart muscle function in those with high cholesterol and hypertension. Current evidence suggests that red wine offers distinct benefits for those that are hoping to prevent cardiovascular disease and in individuals who are at a higher risk for it. We generally buy biodynamic and organic wines from either Benziger or Frey Vineyards. Not only do they create products with a great respect for the land, but “cleaner” wines such as these may be better tolerated by individuals who are sensitive to sulfites and other undesirable elements typically found in conventional wines. (4,5,6,7)

High-Phenol (Antioxidant) Olive Oil Improves Circulation
Source: Amer. Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 86, No. 2, 341-346, August 2007 (link)
Gift # 3 – Vitamin D Test Kit

This final gift idea is a little “out there”. I honestly don’t know how many of you would consider giving it, but I hope you’ll at least give it some thought. A recent trial in the journal Pediatrics highlights an unacceptably high percentage of “suboptimal” Vitamin D in children between the ages of 1-11. The lack of Vitamin D was similar among boys and girls, but was most prevalent among black and Hispanic children. Another newly published study examined the opposite end of the life continuum. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University report that seniors living in nursing homes frequently suffer from a Vitamin D deficiency. This appears to put them at significantly higher risk for “all cause mortality” and heart related mortality. This is particularly tragic because Vitamin D is widely available, inexpensive and safe. There’s absolutely no reason why anyone should be deprived of it. This is why I’m suggesting a Vitamin D test kit for any young child or senior that you care about. The Vitamin D Council offers an affordable home testing kit and guidance about how to adjust Vitamin D status in order to support wellness for those of all ages. (8,9,10)

A Vitamin D test kit is a lot like the vegetables that you put on your son or daughter’s dinner plate. Your kids won’t necessarily thank you for it, but it’s good for them. At the very least, deep down, they’ll (hopefully) know you’re giving them the veggies because you want them to grow up healthy and strong. A beautiful bottle of olive oil and red wine probably strike a better balance. They fall under the category that I refer to as “camoflauged health”. On a cellular and physiological level they’ll be improving health, but this will likely be lost on most of the people receiving the gift. That is, unless you make it a point to explain why you decided to give that particular present in the first place. If you choose to do that, then perhaps your real gift will have a much longer lasting health benefit indeed.

Note: Please check out the β€œComments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


Tags: , ,
Posted in Food and Drink, Heart Health, Nutrition

10 Comments & Updates to “Olive Oil and Red Wine Gifts”

  1. Nina K. Says:

    Morning JP :-),

    your present recs are great, we do that too. i make sometimes a hamper (hope thats the right word) with following organic fillings: wine (red and white), oil, special spices like diverse organic peppers or special cooking oils (that is extra virgin coconut oil in which are spices included for example garam masala, curry etc.) or spiced oils (all organic)like thyme-sage oil on basis of olive oil etc.. Tea lovers get special teas. My newest discovery is a dark chocolate (70% pure cocoa) with 2% green tea and mango oil, smells so divine.

    so, enough said, im going to have a piece of the chocolate πŸ™‚

    stay healthy!
    Nina K.

  2. JP Says:


    Those all sound like delicious and genuinely health promoting gifts. Your family and friends are very fortunate indeed! πŸ™‚

    If was planning on mentioning dark chocolate and tea in a future column. Now, I think I’ll add gourmet spices to the list too! They’re such potent sources of antioxidants and other beneficial phytochemicals.

    Hope you enjoyed the chocolate! πŸ™‚

    Be well!


  3. Bill Rawls Says:

    Olive oil– thats a great one! Something everyone will use and love! Pecans & cashews are another healthy gift idea (plus they freeze well!). My wife’s favorite holiday treat is dried apricots dipped in dark chocolate. A unique combination that is surprisingly nutritious and delicious!

  4. Paul Fanton Says:

    Hi JP

    I want to compliment your article in benefits, clarity and presentation too. It can help many people!

    I have a suggestion for your readers: they can try at the time of their visit to their doctor to request an authorization to test for the Level of Serum 25(OH)D. Their budget will benefit.

    My wife and myself did so and our Doctor obligged.

    We belong to an HMO, so possibly other insurances may offer this service at no charge as well, because of the prevention consequences in reducing their costs.

    The result attained by this approach may be that the Doctor enhances his/her prevention motivation thanks to the advocacy of his/her patient request!

    Merry Christmas and Happy and Healthy New Year!


  5. JP Says:

    Thanks, Bill!

    Nuts are such a great gift. I’ve seen so many different varieties around this year. We’ll probably gift some of the savory and spicy versions to our family and friends.

    The chocolate dipped dried fruit sounds delicious too! A few years ago, we were given some outrageously tasty chocolate covered (fresh) strawberries! Yum! πŸ™‚

    Be well!


  6. JP Says:

    Thank you, Paul! πŸ™‚

    That’s an excellent suggestion! I encourage everyone to take your lead! Only good can come of it!

    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you too!

    Be well!


  7. JP Says:

    Update: Organic, no-sulfite added red wines are higher in antioxidants …


    Food Chem. 2015 Jul 15;179:336-42.

    Polyphenols content, phenolics profile and antioxidant activity of organic red wines produced without sulfur dioxide/sulfites addition in comparison to conventional red wines.

    Wine exerts beneficial effects on human health when it is drunk with moderation. Nevertheless, wine may also contain components negatively affecting human health. Among these, sulfites may induce adverse effects after ingestion. We examined total polyphenols and flavonoids content, phenolics profile and antioxidant activity of eight organic red wines produced without sulfur dioxide/sulfites addition in comparison to those of eight conventional red wines. Polyphenols and flavonoids content were slightly higher in organic wines in respect to conventional wines, however differences did not reach statistical significance. The phenolic acids profile was quite similar in both groups of wines. Antioxidant activity was higher in organic wines compared to conventional wines, although differences were not statistically significant. Our results indicate that organic red wines produced without sulfur dioxide/sulfites addition are comparable to conventional red wines with regard to the total polyphenols and flavonoids content, the phenolics profile and the antioxidant activity.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Update 05/19/15:


    Int J Mol Sci. 2015 Apr 28;16(5):9588-99.

    Carotenoid profile of tomato sauces: effect of cooking time and content of extra virgin olive oil.

    The consumption of carotenoid-rich vegetables such as tomatoes and tomato sauces is associated with reduced risk of several chronic diseases. The predominant carotenoids in tomato products are in the (all-E) configuration, but (Z) isomers can be formed during thermal processing. The effect of cooking time (15, 30, 45 and 60 min) and the addition of extra virgin olive oil (5% and 10%) on the carotenoid extractability of tomato sauces was monitored using liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-MS/MS) and LC-ultraviolet detection (LC-UV). The thermal treatment and the addition of extra virgin olive oil increased the levels of antioxidant activity, total carotenoids, Z-lycopene isomers, Ξ±-carotene and Ξ²-carotene. These results are of particular nutritional benefit since higher lycopene intake has been associated with a reduced risk of lethal prostate and a reduction of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels. Moreover, Ξ²-carotene has been reported to suppress the up-regulation of heme oxygenase-1 gene expression in a dose dependent manner and to suppress UVA-induced HO-1 gene expression in cultured FEK4.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Update 06/06/15:


    J Diabetes Metab Disord. 2015 Apr 29;14:38.

    The effect of topical olive oil on the healing of foot ulcer in patients with type 2 diabetes: a double-blind randomized clinical trial study in Iran.

    BACKGROUND: Diabetic Foot Ulcer (DFU) is the most costly and devastating complication of diabetes mellitus which can lead to infection, gangrene, amputation, and even death if the necessary care is not provided. Nowadays, some herbal products have shown therapeutic effects on healing of DFU. So, this study aimed to assess the effects of topical olive oil on the healing of DFU.

    METHODS: This double-blind randomized clinical trial study was conducted in Diabetes Clinic of Ahvaz Golestan hospital, Iran, in 2014. Thirty-four patients with DFU of Wagner’s ulcer grade 1 or 2 were enrolled in this study. Patients who were randomly assigned to intervention group (n = 17) received topical olive oil in addition to routine cares, whereas patients in control group (n = 17) just received routine cares. Intervention was done once a day for 4 weeks in both groups, and in the end of each week; the ulcers were assessed and scored. Data was collected by demographic and clinical characteristics checklists as well as diabetic foot ulcer healing checklist, and was analyzed by SPSS version 19 software using descriptive (mean and standard deviation) and analytic (student’s sample t-test, chi-square and repeated-measures analysis of variance) statistics.

    RESULTS: At the end of 4(th) week, there was a significant differences between two groups regarding to 3 parameters of ulcer including degree (P = 0.03), color (P = 0.04) and surrounding tissues (P < 0.001) as well as total status of ulcer (P = 0.001), while related to ulcer drainages no significant difference was seen between the two groups (P = 0.072). At the end of the follow up, olive oil significantly decreased ulcer area (P = 0.01) and depth (P = 0.02) compared with control group. Complete ulcer healing in the intervention group was significantly greater than control group (73.3% vs. 13.3%, P = 0.003) at the end of follow up. Also, there were no adverse effects to report during the study in intervention group. CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicated that olive oil in combination with routine cares is more effective than routine cares alone, and is without any side effect. However, further studies are required in the future to confirm these results. Be well! JP

  10. JP Says:

    Updated 08/28/15:


    J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2015 Aug 22.

    Patterns of Alcohol Consumption and Risk of Frailty in Community-dwelling Older Adults.

    BACKGROUND: Consumption of moderate-to-heavy amounts of alcohol has been associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Although both diseases are main causes of the frailty syndrome, no previous study has assessed the association between alcohol-drinking patterns and risk of frailty in older adults.

    METHODS: A prospective cohort study of 2,086 community-dwelling individuals aged 60 and older, recruited in 2008-2010, and followed through 2012, was carried out. Drinking patterns were self-reported at baseline. Moderate drinking was defined as alcohol intake less than 40g/day for men and less than 24g/day for women. A Mediterranean drinking pattern was defined as moderate alcohol intake, with wine preference (β‰₯80% of alcohol proceeds from wine) and drinking only with meals. Study participants were followed through 2012 to ascertain incident frailty, defined as β‰₯2 of the following 4 Fried criteria: exhaustion, muscle weakness, low physical activity, and slow walking speed. Analyses were performed with logistic regression and adjusted for the main confounders.

    RESULTS: After a mean follow-up of 3.3 (SD = 0.6) years, 292 participants with incident frailty were identified. Compared with nondrinkers, the odds ratio and its 95% confidence interval of frailty was 0.90 (0.65-1.25) for moderate drinkers. The corresponding results were 0.74 (0.48-1.16) for wine versus other beverage preference and 0.53 (0.31-0.92) for drinking only with meals versus only outside meals. Finally, compared with nondrinkers, the odds ratio (95% confidence interval) of frailty was 0.68 (0.47-0.99) for those adhering to the Mediterranean drinking pattern.

    CONCLUSIONS: Certain drinking patterns, in particular drinking only with meals and the Mediterranean drinking pattern, are associated with a lower risk of frailty in older adults.

    Be well!


Leave a Comment